Chesapeake’s program is at a crossroads as the city decides whether to charge a fee, pay more or stop doing it. While the city’s current recycling contract with Tidewater Fibre Corporation expires on Friday, negotiations are ongoing to extend its $2.7 million recycling deal for three months. For now, the option of suspending the service is being “seriously considered,” said City Manager James Baker.

The extension with the company would be more expensive but city officials wouldn’t say how much more it would cost. Baker said it would be “significantly higher” than what the city currently pays. Chesapeake is the only city in Hampton Roads that doesn’t charge residents a trash or recycling fee. But that could change if city leaders decide to continue recycling.

“If we continue the recycling based on the numbers that we have now, it’s going to be a significant hit to Chesapeake’s budget,” Baker said. “So from a long-term perspective, if markets don’t change, we have to do something to offset that extra cost. Or absorb them someplace else and cut some other service to do that.”

The rising costs for recycling stem from China’s January 2018 ban on recyclable imports to the country because of environmental issues with contaminated materials. TFC owner Michael Benedetto said he hopes the market is just experiencing a short-term imbalance. “It’s been one of the most challenging times in our company and industry as a whole,” he said, adding that it doesn’t change the fact that recycling is still important for the environment.

The company collects around 14,500 tons of recycling from Chesapeake each year, and more of its residents participate in the program than in any other localities, according to TFC data. Benedetto hopes the city doesn’t decide to cut off the service.

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